March 15, 2007
ALPA Applauds Congressional Pledge to Scrutinize “Open Skies”
Agreement Could Allow Foreign Control of U.S. Airlines
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), issued the following statement in response to a letter sent by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN), House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL), and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters raising concern about the recent tentative U.S.-E.U. agreement on Open Skies.
“ALPA commends Representatives Oberstar, Costello, and LoBiondo for their leadership in safeguarding control of U.S. airlines by scrutinizing the recent Open Skies tentative agreement and highlighting the puzzling ambiguities in its provisions. The lack of clarity sets the stage to allow greater foreign control of U.S. airlines and prompts serious concern about its effect on U.S. jobs in the airline industry.
“If passed, this Open Skies agreement would have a profound effect on our nation’s air transportation system and the passengers, cargo, businesses, and workers who depend on it. Clearly, an agreement with this sweeping impact must not be carried out behind closed doors but debated in an open and public Congressionally driven review process.
“While the tentative Open Skies deal purports not to alter current policy per se, it could, in practice, allow foreign interests to exercise significant operational control over U.S. airlines. Under the rubric of ‘operational matters,’ a foreign entity might be permitted to exercise control over a U.S. airline’s ticket prices, flight schedule, crew allocation, and aircraft fleet.
“In addition, the tentative Open Skies agreement would allow a U.S. airline to ‘wet-lease,’ or bring in foreign aircraft and foreign flight crews, on international routes. ALPA strongly opposes allowing foreign workers to replace U.S. workers at any time in any labor dispute. We believe that any U.S.–EU agreement must flatly prohibit wet-leasing while a labor dispute is pending.
“Of equal concern is that, if this agreement becomes final, it would automatically trigger another round of negotiations, scheduled to begin as early as the last quarter of this year. Priorities named by the parties include further liberalization of air traffic rights, additional foreign investment opportunities, and the provision of aircraft with crews. So, it appears that this agreement may be just the start of a long-term effort to erode U.S. citizens’ control over our airlines.
“This administration attempted a similarly radical policy shift through a Department of Transportation rulemaking process begun in November 2005. That misguided effort provoked sweeping bipartisan opposition from Congress, which ultimately caused the proposal to be withdrawn.
“It appears that the DOT may not have learned from its failed rulemaking process. As the Congressmen’s letter states, it is incumbent on Secretary Peters and the DOT to assure Congress and the workers of this nation’s airline industry that the administration does not intend to defy the will of this country’s elected representatives by attempting to allow foreign interests to control U.S. airlines.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA represents 60,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at http://www.alpa.org/.
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ALPA CONTACTS: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, 703-481-4440